Asia/Pacific summit: US/China chart green(er) energy future, Putin punches baby that appears potentially gay

Characterizations are approximate; I know Obama is not from India but Lego isn't infinite you know

Characterizations are approximate; I know Obama isn’t from India but Lego isn’t infinite you know

The US and China announced a plan to implement new limits on carbon emissions in November at the Asia Pacific economic conference or something, whatever it was called. The plan was met with lukewarm enthusiasm by “experts” (according to Reuters) because it didn’t break any new ground. Still, it is undeniably good news to have the two largest GHG emitters speaking constructively about the subject, as opposed to wasting a rare face-to-face meeting by squabbling about all the other trade/cybersecurity/territorial disputes that exist. If pollution and greenhouse gases are a concern of yours (I don’t care for either though the climate change debate must survive without me), then we should all be pretty ecstatic that these two are talking about this stuff instead of counterfeit marmalade.

According to a Reuters blog from Nov 12, the US and China account for 64 % of total CO2 emissions from the top 10 countries in the world, and are pretty much the only two countries that matter (India is the third biggest culprit, though its’ CO2 emissions are 1/2 the US’s and 1/4 of China’s). If China lopped 10 percent off its CO2 emissions total, for example, that would more than offset Germany’s entire CO2 production. So if the end goal is to limit the rise of global temperatures, the US and China have to get into some sort of competition, maybe the leader of the losing side has to wear an “I’m dirtier than you” shirt for a week or something, if there is going to be any meaningful progress on the climate change front.

Compounding the problem in the shorter term is the recent drop in oil prices. Not many consumers see that as a problem, but we all know what happens when fuel gets cheap – we buy plane tickets, order V8s in our cars and air-condition the dog’s house. For there to be true long-lasting gains in energy efficiency, oil prices need to get considerably higher so that solar, wind, geothermal, etc. options are all cheap in comparison.

So tricky times for these leaders, who simultaneously need cheap energy to keep their economies from crashing, and also need expensive energy to get everyone on the green bandwagon.

Things are considerably simpler for Vladimir Putin, who is just plain crazy. His antics could possibly just be really dark Russian humour, they have such a deadpan delivery it’s hard to tell.  I understand that producing ten million barrels of oil per day and possession of a nuclear weapons arsenal (even if the cold war-vintage bombs are as scarred and dented as a 30 year old fridge that fell off a truck on the freeway) might give you a certain swagger. And fundamentally his main beef with the Ukraine is valid: a legitimately elected government that happened to be pro-Russian was overthrown and replaced in a sort of coup. The west tends to get upset when those things happen, unless of course the voting dimwits in question elected a government the west doesn’t care for. So hypocrisy is sitting on both benches on this one, but Putin’s tactics do make him stand out even in the formidable procession of Russian weirdos that have run that vast and unique country. Who spends $50 billion to stage the Winter Olympics (a disturbing question in its own right) with the main goal being to show the world the “New Russia” (their phrase, lifted from the official opening ceremonies, not mine), and then invades a neighbouring country two months later, destroying any semblance of goodwill or even the very memory of those expensive Olympics?

At any rate, when the two biggest pollution emitters set aside a bunch of relatively minor irritants and agree that they should do something about the ankle-deep filth, it should be considered substantial progress, even if it takes a while to get the ball rolling. And with characters like Putin wandering around the world stage, delusional as a crack-head, taking off his shirt and flexing his 60 year old muscles to just, you know, remind us, it’s good that the two biggest superpowers are standing together watching in shared incredulity rather than joining him.

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